Below is a follow-up by Sarah Durham, principal and founder of Big Duck, to a handful of questions submitted by participants during the webinar titled “Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications," and a cross-post of our Tumblr posts here and here. To view the presentation or listen to the recording of the webinar, please click here.
Q: How can you explain to a traditionalist board the needs and benefits of a fresh audience-centric brand and messaging?
A: Because they’re working in the field every day, staff should know better than anyone how their organization’s communications stack up. Often, they’re the first to arrive at the conclusion that a significant change in communications– whether it’s brand-related or not– is in order. But getting others to arrive at that same conclusion can be tough. I recommend a few ways to jumpstart that conversation. Here are the three easy ways to do it:
1. Materials review. Put all of your materials out on the table and talk about them. Invite a few key board members to that meeting, too. Explore what’s working, what’s not, and what you’d like to do in the next year. Including board members in that conversation may be the spark that starts the fire you need to get the board’s support.
2. Landscape review. As part of a board meeting, bring up the websites of three to five peer agencies. As you show the board how your peers communicate online, talk a bit about how your agencies differ, what they do well, what you do better, etc. At the end, bring up your website. Point out how they describe their work and show them how you’re currently communicating, too
3. ‘Best practices’ showcase. As part of a board or staff meeting, show websites from three nonprofits who you feel do an excellent job communicating. Try to pick examples that reflect the direction or ideas you feel your organization should be thinking about too. These organizations might be much bigger, smaller, or programmatically different from you- it doesn’t matter. The goal here is to help educate people about what others are doing in a way that encourages them to aspire to do it better at your nonprofit, too.
All three of these ideas rely on the conversation that emerges to help move people toward a new way of considering your communications. Be sure to help that conversation unfold without controlling it too much. Change will be most effectively embraced when everyone sees the need for it themselves, and they’ll resist it if a few vocal people try to drive the conversation in too directed a manner.
Q: My nonprofit has a lot of programs, products, and services and there is some discomfort with commingling the outcomes of the different work under one brand. How do I sell my leadership on the idea that our branding has to be consistent across all of these rather than focusing on the work of one outcome over the other?
A: Please check out this video on manging sub-brands under a consistent umbrella.
Sarah Durham is the original “Big Duck,” and author of Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2010). She is a self-described “nonprofit communications nerd” and teaches aspiring nonprofit communications nerds at NYU’s Wagner School (where she is an adjunct faculty member) and at the Athena Center for Women’s Leadership at Barnard College. Sarah tweets @BigDuckSarah; please join her in conversation there.